Dornoch Castle Hotel

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Dornoch Castle Hotel's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Dornoch Castle Hotel is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

Directors Colin and
Dornoch Castle Hotel
Based on the northeast coast of Scotland, some 40 miles
north of Inverness, is the quaint and historic Dornoch
Castle Hotel. Originally serving as a palace for the Bishop of
Sutherland, and subsequently as a fortification in the late Middle
Ages, the venue has since undergone all kinds of changes. Today,
as the name suggests, it is a well-located hotel that blends the
old with the new. Additionally, it is situated just 400 metres
from the Royal Dornoch Golf Club, which is rated as one of the
top ten golf courses in the world. The enterprise is co-directed
by husband and wife Colin and Roselyn Thompson, and their
two sons, Simon and Philip. Colin tells
more about their operation and how it has expanded.
To describe Dornoch Castle Hotel in words is to not do it justice. It is only when you
arrive that you can fully appreciate the beauty of the area – the inimitably historic
ambience of the 12th-century Dornoch Cathedral, the velvety rolling greens of the
Royal Dornoch Golf Club, the mesmerising embrace of the Scottish Highlands.
Dornoch itself is a highly active community with a tourism action group that
manages to put on events such as Hogmanay, whisky festivals and street markets.
In spite of our rural location, we enjoy widely accessible 4G signal and modern
telecommunications infrastructure.
Our beautiful 22-room hotel attracts guests from the world over – from North
America to northern Europe. They come for a variety of reasons: summer season
golf, genealogy, North Coast 500 car tours, weddings and the native flora andfauna.
»Co-directors: Colin Thompson,
Roselyn Thompson, Simon
Thompson and Philip Thompson
»Established in 2000
»Based in Dornoch, Scotland
»Services: Hotel and distillery
»No. of employees: 28 in high
season; 20 in low season
»Rated number 1 whisky bar in
the world by Whiskybase
»Situated roughly 400 metres
from a global top 10 golf club
Dornoch Castle Hotel
Highlighting best practice
Apart from general Highlands tourists,
we have also seen more and more
whisky lovers, which is proving to be an
important component of ourbusiness.
Diversification is a key to
Lovely as Dornoch is, we have to
contend with two difficult facts: we
are rurally located and our business is
seasonal. Diversification is therefore
a necessity, and to this end we went
about setting up not just a whisky
bar, but one of the world’s greatest
whisky bars – a feat for which we
can thank Simon and Philip. We were
subsequently rated number one in the
world by Whiskybase and won Scottish
Whisky Bar of the Year in 2014
As part of this effort, we opened
Dornoch Distillery in what was
previously the village fire station. The
success of this initiative is such that
the organic gin and whisky that we
produce is now exported to six EU
countries, as well as to Japan, Taiwan,
Australia, Singapore, Canada, Hong
Kong and, most recently, mainland
China. We’re now looking to drive
further efficiency with the recent
purchase of a new site which will
simultaneously host both our whisky
and gin production under one roof.
This will include a visitor area that
should further boost our business.
Issues with collateralised debt
In late 2015, we faced major issues
when our bank, AIB, told us that
our business loan was being sold
as part of a balance sheet exercise
to an American hedge fund. For
almost two years, we were engaged
in the difficult process of extracting
ourselves, buying our loan back and
then placing ourselves with a normal
bank again. The way this Luxembourg-
based closed-door company acted
throughout this ordeal seemed to
border on white collar crime.
This only ended in November 2017
and, were it not for the strength
of our distillery, we may well have
had to fold. The anger and disgust
that these people managed to make
me feel is difficult to overstate. The
reason for this, I surmise, was Gordon
Brown’s instruction that banks ought
to get their balance sheets in order –
something they then tried to achieve
by selling billions of pounds of loan
portfolios to hedge funds. This had
an effect not just on our hotel, but on
many businesses across the country,
particularly on the high street.
The new vault area Directors Simon and
Philip Thompson
Our beautiful
22-room hotel
attracts guests
from the
world over
– from North
America to
Difficult circumstances,
innovative solutions
Infrastructure has also been problematic.
There was a promise by the Scottish
government that the A9 would become
a dual carriageway by 2025. Given,
however, that only four of the planned
85 miles have been completed thus far,
this is not a development on which we
can rely. If this did go ahead, it would be
a major boost for the north Highlands
economy – in the same way that an
increased number of flights coming
into Inverness was. Expansions of
this kind mean we can become much
more competitive as a region, and the
sooner this is carried out, the better.
Other issues to contend with include
staffing and training, as the local
population provides only a small pool
of people to draw from; this difficulty
is compounded by the seasonal
nature of our business. Additionally,
third-party online booking has been
a sector-wide challenge, as the
commission these companies charge
– normally 15 per cent – comprises a
significant portion of our overheads.
Many of these organisations are also
based abroad, and therefore their
revenues are untaxable.
In effect, our country and our
workforce lose out, whereas companies
like win on all fronts. As
a sector, we also face disproportionate
business rates, as we are taxed on
the basis of turnover, not on profit.
The consequence of this is that we
end up paying £110 per day simply to
exist. We believe that reduced rates
across the board would be a welcome
addition for the British tourism industry
– a move whichalready has precedent
across much ofEurope.
A landscape that speaks for
Trying as many of these circumstances
are, we have faith in our ability to
adapt to all that comes our way.
We already have plans in motion to
improve our dining facilities, including
the formation of a recently completed
private restaurant alongside an
upmarket fish and chip shop.
As mentioned earlier, our distillery
business will also see an enormous
upgrade. This restless adaptation,
along with our beautiful landscape,
will ensure that we not only survive,
but thrive long into the future.
The bar
We went
about setting
up not just a
whisky bar,
but one of the
whisky bars

This article was sponsored by Dornoch Castle Hotel. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from The Rt Hon Theresa May MP.

The Rt Hon Theresa May MP's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

This foreword from the then Prime Minister appeared in the 2018/19 Parliamentary Review.

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review. For Her Majesty’s Government, our task in the year ahead is clear: to achieve the best Brexit deal for Britain and to carry on our work to build a more prosperous and united country – one that truly works for everyone. 

The right Brexit deal will not be sufficient on its own to secure a more prosperous future for Britain. We also need to ensure that our economy is ready for what tomorrow will bring. Our Modern Industrial Strategy is our plan to do that. It means Government stepping up to secure the foundations of our productivity: providing an education system that delivers the skills our economy needs, improving school standards and transforming technical education; delivering infrastructure for growth; ensuring people have the homes they need in the places they want to live. It is all about taking action for the long-term that will pay dividends in the future.

But it also goes beyond that. Government, the private sector and academia working together as strategic partners achieve far more than we could separately. That is why we have set an ambitious goal of lifting UK public and private research and development investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027. It is why we are developing four Grand Challenges, the big drivers of social and economic change in the world today: harnessing artificial intelligence and the data revolution; leading in changes to the future of mobility; meeting the challenges of our ageing society; and driving ahead the revolution in clean growth. By focusing our efforts on making the most of these areas of enormous potential, we can develop new exports, grow new industries and create more good jobs in every part of our country.

Years of hard work and sacrifice from the British people have got our deficit down by over three quarters. We are building on this success by taking a balanced approach to public spending. We are continuing to deal with our debts, so that our economy can remain strong and we can protect people’s jobs, and at the same time we are investing in vital public services, like our NHS. We have set out plans to increase NHS funding annually by an average by 3.4 percent in real terms: that is £394 million a week more. In return, the NHS will produce a ten-year plan, led by doctors and nurses, to eliminate waste and improve patient care.

I believe that Britain can look to the future with confidence. We are leaving the EU and setting a new course for prosperity as a global trading nation. We have a Modern Industrial Strategy that is strengthening the foundations of our economy and helping us to seize the opportunities of the future. We are investing in the public services we all rely on and helping them to grow and improve. Building on our country’s great strengths – our world-class universities and researchers, our excellent services sector, our cutting edge manufacturers, our vibrant creative industries, our dedicated public servants – we can look towards a new decade that is ripe with possibility. The government I lead is doing all it can to make that brighter future a reality for everyone in our country. 

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review 
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Prime Minister